The “for lease” sign on the front door would suggest the building is empty. Peek inside, and you’ll see an artist hard at work on a sewing machine with a white, magnetic, mannequin foot affixed to its side.
“It fits perfectly on my sewing machine so that’s where it lives,” Nicole Banowetz said, adding that the mannequin foot was a gift from a friend.
Banowetz is an artist who sees creative potential in the unexpected. Lately, she’s been inspired by microscopic viruses and bacteria. The large, white fabric draped on her worktable looked like a tablecloth, but Banowetz said it was actually a deflated disease.
“It’s based off a smallpox virus,” she said.
Banowetz stitches together fabric and fills her creations with air. Her giant, inflatable sculptures of viruses and bacteria are more playful than menacing.
“I just fell in love with the process of inflatables, and I just haven’t been able to stop making them,” Banowetz said.
Recently, Banowetz has been working in studio space that once belonged to Hollywood Video off west Colfax. The 40 West Arts District secured the space for Nicole to work before developers turn it into a new restaurant.
“It should be space put into use,” said Kevin Yoshida, a board member of 40 West Arts District. “We’ve been working with our business owners and our property owners to find raw spaces, under-activated right now, that artists like Nicole can come in and get set for an international show.”
Nicole has been preparing for more than one show overseas.
“In about a week and a half I’m going to Taiwan to install this piece at the children’s museum there,” Banowetz said, standing in front of a large formation of billowing, inflatable clouds illuminated in purple light.
Banowetz also created a black and white airship that will hang below the clouds.
“Nicole’s work makes me smile,” Yoshida said. “It’s fun. It’s creative. It invites interaction.”
Banowetz will bring her virus series of inflatables to Sweden in June for the OpenART festival. She said her smallpox virus will hang from a building for two months.
“I think her inspiration of taking the microscopic and making it interactive and fun is really cool,” Yoshida said.
Until she leaves for Taiwan, Nicole Banowetz will keep working, creating and inflating her memorable art.
“I think it’s kind of magical to watch them come to life,” Banowetz said.